The benefits of public Pagan events

In an email conversation discussing the incident at MPPD 2007 involving the CCL of Maine, Tracie asked some interesting questions about the philosophy behind public Pagan events:

In other words, what is the motivation behind pagans doing big public events anyway? Why do we need the attention? In what way does it serve our Gods?

Over the past eight or so years, I’ve attended various public Pagan events:

As I mulled over Tracie’s questions, I thought back to each of these events I attended. And to be honest, with the possible exception of Starwood, I’m not sure any of them got all that much attention. And to the best of my knowledge, not even Starwood seemed to draw a great deal of attention from the non-Pagan community. So I find myself wondering how much attention we as Pagans are drawing or trying to draw to ourselves with such events, anyway.

As I think of each of these events, what sticks in my mind were the opportunities to meet like-minded people, make friends, and otherwise engage in networking. And to me, this is the true value of such events. They provide us with the chance to get together and find people and opportunities that we might otherwise miss.

Such events and the networking opportunities they offer particularly provide a great service to people who are new to a geographic area or are new to or just becoming interested in Paganism. Such publicized events provide them with a readily accessible and obvious starting point. In a single day (or however long the event lasts), they can meet many people and start getting an idea of who they fit with both religiously and on an interpersonal level. Similarly, established organizations and groups can get to know these newcomers and make similar evaluations.

Such events also offer the benefits of bringing together diverse groups for networking purposes as well. It provides groups the opportunity to touch base with one another and exchange any information or concerns that may effect the Pagan community as a whole. Such networking can help lead to a healthier community overall.

Of course, such events also tend to have workshops that can be educational and informative. While this benefit strikes me as secondary to the networking I’ve already described, I think it’s still important and serves a positive purpose. This enables people to learn new things and provides for an opportunity to exchange ideas. Again, this lead to the betterment of those in attendance, both as individuals and as a whole. And I cannot think of a better service to the gods.

Personally, I tend to see the attention such events might draw from the wider (i.e. non-Pagan) community as a side-effect rather than a primary goal. (I’m sure others will disagree, however.) Sometimes, that side effect has consequences that are unfortunate, such as the encounter with the Maine CCL at MPPD. However, I think that the clear benefits of these events — benefits that rely on the events being both public and widely publicized in order to be maximized — far outweigh the downside.

One thought on “The benefits of public Pagan events”

  1. In the latest newly revised and expanded version of her boon Drawing Down the Moon, Margot Adler discusses festivals and their relevance when they began in the 60s and today. She points out some of the things you’ve mentioned in your post, but adds that that although only about 10% of Pagans go to festivals, the techniques, rituals, contacts, songs and chants that those Pagans bring back to their covens and local communities help deepen our spirituality, connect us as a community, and develop a kind of national culture.

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